Court shuts down one of Russia’s last independent media

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Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s few remaining independent news outlets, was stripped of its media licence on Monday, and in effect banned from operating.

The country’s media watchdog, Rozkomnadzor, had accused it of failing to provide documents related to a change of ownership in 2006.

Speaking outside court, editor in chief Dmitry Muratov, a Nobel Peace laureate for his efforts to uphold critical news reporting in Russia, said the ruling was “a political hit job, without the slightest legal basis.” He said the paper would appeal.

In a statement, Novaya Gazeta said the decision by Moscow’s Basmanny District Court, which often handles politically charged cases, had “killed the newspaper, stolen 30 years of life from its workers, and deprived readers of the right to information.”

The United Nations Human Rights office called the judgment “yet another blow to the independence of Russian media,” and urged Moscow to protect media freedom.

Novaya Gazeta has been a stalwart of Russia’s media scene since its foundation in 1993 with money from the Nobel Peace Prize of late Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It had carved out a niche as Russia’s leading investigative news outlet, even as media freedoms were gradually rolled back.

Muratov carries a portrait of the late Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, out of the House of Unions after a memorial service for the former president in Moscow on Saturday. (Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

In March, it suspended operations in Russia after being cautioned for violating new laws imposing strict censorship on coverage of the conflict in Ukraine.

Staff have since set up a new spinoff online outlet in Europe, whose publications have also been blocked in Russia.

Muratov himself remains in Russia, and on Saturday led the funeral procession of Gorbachev, his financial backer and friend.



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